Album Review: Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine – “Like A Bittersweet Melody”

4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Arlo Parks‘ sophomore album, My Soft Machine, takes us on a mesmerizing journey through introspection and vulnerability, capturing the essence of our times. With delicate delivery and poignant lyrics, Parks crafts a tapestry of emotions that resonates long after the final notes fade.

From the opening track, “Bruiseless,” it becomes clear that Parks possesses a rare talent for delving into the depths of human experience. Her admission that “everyone I love has been abused, and I am included” leaves a profound impact. Parks‘ strength lies not only in her enchanting vocals but also in the weight and significance of her words. Each line feels like a carefully crafted brushstroke on a canvas of raw emotions.

My Soft Machine shines brightest in moments of sheer wonder. “Impurities,” features a line that echoes in the depths of one’s soul: “Piling in the Escalade, my chest is buzzing like a bluebird caged.” These glimpses of lyrical brilliance demonstrate Parks‘ prowess as a songwriter and her ability to touch the core of our being.

The album’s musical backdrop blends familiar elements with newfound experimentation. Parks takes calculated risks to frame her weightless voice, and they pay off. Tracks like “Devotion” and “Dog Rose” showcase spirited guitar breakdowns and haunting soundscapes, reminiscent of her cherished influences. The result is a sonic landscape that complements Parks‘ poetic musings and adds depth to the listening experience.

However, My Soft Machine occasionally falters in its grand set-pieces. Collaborations such as “Pegasus” with Phoebe Bridgers, while not devoid of merit, fail to reach the anticipated heights. The choruses of “Blades” and “Weightless” lack the spark found in Parks‘ previous catchy single, “Softly,” leaving a lingering sense of unfulfilled potential.

Watch Arlo Parks’ “Softly” music video below

Despite these minor missteps, My Soft Machine remains a captivating album that invites unraveling and exploration. Parks weaves a tapestry of emotions and thoughts, urging listeners to delve into each lyric, uncover hidden meanings, and connect on a profoundly personal level. While the album may lack some larger-than-life moments, as seen with her debut Collapsed In Sunbeams, the nuanced beauty and poetic depth that Parks infuses into every track make it an engrossing and rewarding experience.

My Soft Machine solidifies Arlo Parks‘ position as a poetess of her generation, unraveling the complexities of trauma and the fragility of our minds with eloquence and grace. It may not reach the heights of perfection, but it reaffirms that Parks‘ true strength lies in the authenticity and depth of her songwriting. The album leaves a lasting impression, like a bittersweet melody that lingers in the mind, reminding us of the profound beauty found within our shared human experience.

My Soft Machine is out now via Transgressive Records. For more information on Arlo Parks or any upcoming tour dates, visit her website here.

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